Newsom Can Say Recall Is GOP 'Power Grab' in Official Voter Guide, Judge Tentatively Rules

A California judge tentatively ruled in favor of Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, saying he can keep references to the recall being a Republican-led effort in an official election guide.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie Earl made the tentative ruling just days after top supporters of the recall filed a lawsuit to block him from using such language.

Earl wrote in her decision that Newsom persuasively demonstrated that the recall effort "was clearly spearheaded by Republicans," noting that the two of the petitioners—Orrin Heatlie and Mike Netter—describe themselves as "lead proponents" of the recall and are registered Republicans.

Both sides in the recall effort were invited by California's secretary of state to submit 500-word arguments that will appear in official voter information guides sent to all registered voters ahead of the September 14 vote.

In the lawsuit, Heatlie and Netter presented 10 statements made by Newsom in his argument. The statements include "VOTE NO on the recall to stop this Republican power grab" and "The recall is an attempt by national Republicans and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California."

Earl wrote that while some of Newsom's language may be an exaggeration or hyperbole, it's rhetoric that is "common to political debate and that is thus permissible."

"To the extent Petitioners argue a recall can never be described as a power grab or an abuse of law because recalls are constitutionally authorized, the Court rejects that argument," Earl wrote. She noted that recalls force elections to take place and that if they are successful, they will result in an opposing party taking over the governor's seat.

The judge's ruling will not take effect until she issues a final decision after hearing arguments from both sides.

Gavin Newsom Press Conference
California Governor Gavin Newsom can keep terms such as "Republican recall" and "power grab" in a recall election voter guide, a judge tentatively ruled on Wednesday. Here, Newsom attends a press conference for the official reopening of the state of California at Universal Studios Hollywood on June 15, 2021, in Universal City, California. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Image/Getty Images

Newsom has a narrow lead in the tightening recall race, according to the latest poll from Emerson College.

The survey found 48 percent of respondents said they'd vote to keep Newsom in office, while 46 percent said they would vote to recall him. While Newsom is ahead, his advantage has shrunk since he held a 3-point lead in March and a 5-point lead in July.

When respondents were asked which Republican candidate they'd want to replace Newsom if he were recalled, talk show host Larry Elder held a commanding lead, with 23 percent support. Businessman John Cox and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner trailed behind, with 7 percent support each.

On Wednesday night, Republican candidates hoping to replace Newsom will take part in a debate. The Richard Nixon Foundation, which is hosting the event, said the four candidates participating are Cox, Kevin Faulconer, Kevin Kiley and Doug Ose.

Jenner and Elder both had scheduling conflicts, the foundation said, while Newsom didn't respond to the invitation.

Newsweek reached out to Newsom, as well as Heatlie and Netter, for comment on the judge's tentative ruling but didn't receive a response before publication.